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Microsoft Gives iOS Users a SkyDrive Frontage Road

By Richard Adhikari MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Dec 14, 2011 12:09 PM PT

Microsoft has begun rolling out a SkyDrive app for iOS devices and Windows phones. SkyDrive, which offers online document storage and file-sharing, is available only to users with a Hotmail account.

Microsoft Gives iOS Users a SkyDrive Frontage Road

SkyDrive for the iPhone will be available in 32 languages worldwide.

It includes capabilities for browsing, managing, and viewing documents and photos stored on the service, Microsoft SkyDrive team member Harrison Hoffman told MacNewsWorld.

"Think of it as file-sharing across Microsoft's ecosystem with Apple platform compatibility," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told MacNewsWorld.

However, it seems SkyDrive for the iPhone is limited in its capabilities. For example, iPhone users can upload only photos and videos to the cloud service.

"One of the reasons SkyDrive can't do everything on the iPhone that it can on Windows phones is that it doesn't have that deep level of integration," Michael Morgan, a senior analyst at ABI Research, pointed out.

About SkyDrive on the Go

SkyDrive has been deeply integrated into Windows Phone devices through the Pictures and Office hubs, Microsoft said. Users can share photos stored on the service by email, text or instant messages, and use Microsoft Office apps with SkyDrive files, among other things.

SkyDrive is integrated into apps along with core phone functions, Microsoft said.

For iOS, the service was tailored to fit that operating system's "distinctive" look and feel, Microsoft's Hoffman said.

"We believe that a winning personal cloud storage service must deliver easy access to content across devices and platforms, so we gave iPhone users a great, native experience," Hoffman added.

However, SkyDrive for the iOS is only made for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Hoffman declined to comment on whether Microsoft might create a version for the iPad.

Promises, Promises

SkyDrive for iOS doesn't let users open files in external apps. Users can preview a Microsoft Word document from within the app and share it via email for viewing or editing on Word online but can't open the doc into an iOS app for editing.

"At this time, we do not support opening other file types from the SkyDrive app," Microsoft's Hoffman stated. "We are always looking for ways to improve the product for our customers, but we don't have anything to share about future plans at this time."

Further, SkyDrive for iOS only lets users upload photos or videos taken with their iPhones.

"Microsoft's approach is essentially a workaround for email and text and SMS," ABI's Morgan told MacNewsWorld. "Microsoft's lowering the barrier but there are competitors out there like DropBox who let you access files with any app on your device."

A Storm in the Accessibility Teacup?

However, these limitations on SkyDrive app access might be minor issues.

"These gaps could be solved by the launch of a version of Microsoft Office for iOS devices," Chris Hazelton, a research director at the 451 Group, told MacNewsWorld.

Microsoft may be holding off until it sees how well SkyDrive for iOS is received.

There are limits to what iPhone users can do on SkyDrive because "we have to make tradeoffs in feature implementation from time to time," Hoffman said.

On the other hand, "limitations like this are often required by Apple so that a competing product doesn't overlap with one of its offerings," Enderle suggested.

Taking on the iCloud

Apple already offers customers its iCloud service, but Microsoft contends that's not the same as SkyDrive.

The iCloud is a device cloud, which is proprietary to a brand or operating system, and offers a device-centric view of cloud storage, while SkyDrive is a file cloud, which offers a file-centric view of cloud storage and lets users access their files from anywhere and share them, Microsoft stated.

"Microsoft's hijacking the world of cloud definitions," ABI's Morgan remarked. "But their service doesn't work the same on Windows phones as it does on iOS. It can't." The definitions are essentially a marketing ploy, Morgan suggested.

"The end goal for all products is to give consumers what they want when and where they want it and on the device they want," Enderle said. "All products in this class will be file-centric because of that common end goal."

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